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More Firefox Bugs, Android

2020-08-27

A bit disheartening but Mozilla has pushed out a new release for Firefox on Android and I find myself once again befuddled by the number of bugs.

I read about the release a few days ago and figured the complaints were overblown. The linked article reads like clickbait and I wanted to give the benefit of the doubt that Mozilla hadn't done something blindingly stupid with over a year of development on the latest release.

I was wrong.

There is an update to the "new tab" interface. I can't actually work out what the goal was but I was bemused to find out that plenty of other people were similarly confused (1, 2, 3, 4) by it. It seems like the "+" icon does not create a new tab (silly me) and they've managed to require an extra click/press to begin entering an address. They've done away with the "frequently visited sites" option, which is a shame because typing on a phone is awful.

All of that might be waved away as part of the unfaltering march of "progress". What finally made me laugh out loud was finding my own website is now broken. I've captured a video to demonstrate the issue but surely, if they can't get a site like mine right, the rest of the web is at least as broken.

In case the video isn't clear, I am loading my homepage, which contains four links at the bottom of the screen. There is nothing exotic about the page or the links. I struggled to imagine what might be the issue and the only thing I came up with is that they are contained in a flexbox. As best as I can tell the issue is something like this:

  1. the entire page fits the height of my screen
  2. the address bar "retracts" on scrolling down
  3. the scroll-height calculation happens before or outside of the address bar placement, so there is no option to scroll
  4. without the option to scroll and retract the address bar, the links are not visible

For added fun it seems that even once I manage to get the links in view by zooming in and out wildly, they haven't been registered as clickable by the browser. I can only guess that the touch event listener is optimized out for being "off screen" or something equally stupid.

Finally, at the end of the video I toggle between the browser and homescreen where you'll notice a weird artifact or flash. This isn't a result of the recording and actually happens on the phone. I couldn't begin to speculate what causes this.

What is the Point?

I no longer bother testing things out at work in Firefox, where for years I dutifully filed tickets and pushed fixes to ensure cross-browser support. I can't really argue in good faith that anyone else should use it at this point and I'm not even sure why I am bothering to vent about it. I guess I'm disappointed, but mostly because I'm not really surprised. Perhaps these are the death throes of a project desparate for relevancy; I should remember to do some kind of retrospective and see how far off this impression was in a few years.

On an unrelated post, Why Johnny Won't Upgrade, I saw a comment that resonated with me:

Some automatic updates should really just be different products.

But the weird thing is, this Firefox update was a different product. Mozilla developed it under the name Fenix for over a year (see the linked GitHub issues above). I'm sure they were upfront that it would become the new browser, I don't want to imply this was sneaky in some way. What I'm confused about is why they bothered.